Rap, women center stage at Grammys
LOS ANGELES — Rap artists and women have felt shunned by the Grammy Awards in recent years. But this year, they both took center stage.
Childish Gambino’s disturbing look at race relations, “This is America,” won record and song of the year on the Feb. 10 telecast. It was the first time a rap-based song won both of those awards, considered — with album of the year — the recording industry’s most prestigious.
Kacey Musgraves won top album and matched Childish Gambino with four Grammys total. A year after many women felt left out of the Grammy telecast, they delivered the night’s most memorable performances. The best new artist winner, British singer Dua Lipa, also cast major shade on the outgoing recording academy president.
Lady Gaga and Brandi Carlile won three Grammys apiece, and former first lady Michelle Obama was a surprise guest at the top of the show on CBS.
Childish Gambino, the stage name of actor Donald Glover, and another prominent rap nominee, Kendrick Lamar, both declined invitations to perform or attend the Feb. 10 show. Some rap artists feel the Grammys have been slow to recognize how the genre now dominates popular music.
Ludwig Goransson, a songwriter and producer on “This is America,” said backstage that he was surprised the victories were so historic. Just listening to the radio, watching the culture and seeing how many rap songs are downloaded is evidence of rap’s impact.
“It’s about time something like this happened with the Grammys as well,” Goransson said.
Cardi B became the first solo woman to win best rap album, although Lau- ryn Hill was the lead singer of the Fugees, which won the same award at the 1997 Grammys. Cardi B was so nervous accepting the award that she joked, “Maybe I need to start smoking weed.”
She looked anything but rattled earlier, when her rendition of “Money” was among the night’s performance highlights. Janelle Monae delivered a smoking version of her hit “Make Me Feel”; St. Vincent and Dua Lipa’s duet on “Masseduction” was steamy; H.E.R. turned heads with “Hard Place”; and Carlile sang an inspired version of her hit “The Joke.”
Being part of a big night for women was huge to her, Carlile said backstage after the show.
“I’m a kid from the ’90s and Lilith Fair, you know, and those women were just dominating those platforms,” she said. “They were dominating those arena and amphitheater stages. They were getting record deals. They were becoming record executives themselves. They completely controlled the airwaves. They were on the radio. And to watch that backslide for the last 20 years has been heartbreaking. Tonight, it gives me hope as a mother of two young daughters.”
H.E.R. performs “Hard Place” at the 61st annual Grammy Awards in LA.